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On Sunday a commercial aircraft arrived in New York carrying much needed medical supplies: 80 tons of gloves, masks, gowns, and other items. The surprising thing is where the plane originated: China. The country is still willing to help the United States, even after Donald Trump has referred to COVID-19 as the "China Virus."
The flight was just the first of 22 that are scheduled to bring the much-sought-after supplies to the U.S. as it tries to fight the virus with hospitals running out, forced to ration the supplies, make their own, or simply go without.
Arriving from China were 130,000 N95 masks, 1.8 million face masks and gowns, 10 million gloves, and thousands of thermometers for distribution to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, reported Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow. More flights will be arriving in Chicago and Ohio on Monday and Tuesday. Those supplies will be sent to other states from there.
The Trump administration has been searching for ways to get necessary supplies. They've been looking for ways to produce respirators and ventilators, along with other supplies, but the factories that normally produce them are at full capacity already. Some companies have stepped up to make them, like Tesla, and Apple has already donated a big shipment of masks. Others, like General Motors and Ford, have been pressed by Trump to produce ventilators. yet these companies will need weeks or months before the facilities can start cranking them out.
Sunday's shipment was arranged by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, in a public-private partnership, along with McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Owens & Minor, Medline, Henry Schein, and other major health-care distributors. Trump joined reps from those companies in a White House meeting on Sunday.
Still, what arrived on Sunday is just a very small portion of what is needed in the U.S. It was estimated by the Department of Health and Human Services that the U.S. will need 3.5 billion masks if the pandemic lasts a year.
And the U.S. isn't the only nation in need, as countries are beginning to race each other to get dibs on them. China has new factories producing protective gear, ventilators, and other supplies, despite the pandemic waning there.
"China has abundant protective equipment now, and the rest of the world has a huge shortage," said the chairman of greater China for APCO Worldwide, James McGregor.
Litzow reported that not all of the supplies will come from China. The U.S. is also working with manufacturers from Honduras, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, some of which have been heavily condemned by Trump in the past.
Governors and mayors don't feel like the U.S. government has been moving fast enough, so they have been trying to procure their own shipments from China, going up against foreign buyers.
There are also wealthy individuals, charitable organizations, and corporate executives in the U.S. private sector who have connections to China and are trying to work deals. Chinese billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, is sending one million masks and 500,000 tests to the U.S. An organization of Americans of Chinese descent, the Committee of 100, has raised $1 million to procure needed supplies and send them to the U.S.
The chairman of Himalaya Capital Management, Li Lu, said he's helping arrange a shipment to the U.S. of one million masks made by Chinese automaker BYD. Li is part owner of the company. He has been sending more than $1.4 million of supplies worldwide to Wuhan, China. Once the country started healing from the pandemic, and there was more need in the West, he directed them that way.
BYD started producing masks at the end of last month, and the Chinese government bought out everything produced, according to Li. Now they are filling an order for 40 million masks for Italy. The first shipment of a million masks will be sent to the U.S. on April 1.
He's also speaking with China's largest ventilator manufacturer. Everything being produced has already been bought up by parties through September, but Li is trying to persuade them to send a few hundred to the U.S.
"China has the capacity now, and the U.S. has a huge need," said Li. "We've got to fight together."
Had Trump not downplayed the force of coronavirus COVID-19 when it was in China, he could have better prepared the U.S. and could have made sure hospitals were prepared at that point. Right now, it seems the U.S. is working under the gun.
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